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Imagine Canada

Strong Charities. Strong Communities.

From ‘Corporate Philanthropy’ to ‘Community Investment’

Monday, December 3, 2018
Caring Companies
Tawanda Chirenda

In the last ten years, corporate giving in Canada has been evolving and responding to both market pressures and wider social shifts. Corporate philanthropy is alive and well, and it plays a significant role in incubating new ideas and building the reputation of Canadian company and nonprofit brands alike. However, donations are only a part of community investment.

This week, Imagine Canada released Corporate Giving in a Changing Canada, a collaborative research initiative, developed in collaboration with the Business Council of Canada, Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR), LBG Canada, and Volunteer Canada. Within the report, the ongoing evolution of corporate giving and what this means for Canadian companies and nonprofit organizations is striking.

Companies are being more strategic

Traditional philanthropy, whereby companies provide cash contributions to community organizations, continues to play a part in the social solutions offered by companies. But more importantly, they are tapping into far more assets, such as their employee time, their supply chains, and their brand assets, and they are acting far more strategically than they have in the past when it comes to their philanthropy. This is what we mean when we say community investment: the broad spectrum of voluntary contributions that companies can provide to strengthen their community, including cash donations, and the thoughtful strategy that ties that giving to their business priorities.

Deeper relationships between companies and causes

The study also shows an unmistakable trend towards partnerships, representing a shift in the relationships between companies and their community partners. 78% of those in the study reported they have at least one nonprofit that they consider to be a strategic partner, an organization with close ties to their business and for whom they have a long term commitment. And 74% of respondents agreed that signature partners have become more important to them in the last five years.

Companies focus on fewer causes

As a consequence, 42% of companies with partnerships told us they are funding fewer organizations in order to focus on their signature relationships. These findings may be uncomfortable to some: the trend towards fewer companies writing unrestricted checks and instead making long term selective investments and giving of time and assets as well as cash. But traditional philanthropy alone cannot solve social issues – there simply isn’t a big enough pie. A Canada where we leverage all corporate assets for social good is a move in the right direction. And the good news is that the leading companies in the study plan to increase their dedication to community investment. In fact, 42% of companies in the study expect to increase the size of their budgets in 2019, compared to 8% predicting a decrease.

For more information on the current state of community investment, download Corporate Giving in a Changing Canada.


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